The Handbook
The Handbook

What?  To celebrate Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion, the first-ever UK exhibition exploring Cristóbal Balenciaga’s work, The May Fair Hotel has created a new package which includes a night’s stay in the hotel, tickets to the exhibition at the V&A and breakfast the next morning.

New? Whilst the hotel isn’t new, the package is, and it’s only available until the 18th February so get booking.

 Where?  Tucked behind Green Park tube station and (as I timed it) a handy 14 minutes from the V&A by tube. Although we were lucky and didn’t have delays, can’t promise TFL will be so accommodating, but I’ll have my fingers crossed for you.
The May Fair Hotel, Stratton Street, Mayfair, W1J 8LT 

The Exhibition: Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion marks the centenary of the opening of his first fashion house in San Sebastian and the 80th anniversary of his fashion house in Paris. Divided into three sections, Front of House, Work Rooms and Balenciaga’s Legacy, it explores the work of Cristóbal Balenciaga, with an emphasis on the 1950s and 60s, the time when he was seen to be the master of couture and introduced iconic shapes, such as the tunic, the sack, the baby doll and the shift dress. The exhibition features over 100 garments and 20 hats, including pieces by 30 designers who have been influenced by Balenciaga’s classic and bold shapes including Gareth Pugh. You don’t have to be familiar with Balenciaga’s work to admire his work, more than likely you’ll discover that some of you favourite designers or shapes were actually influenced or designed by him. It’s a collection of classic and iconic pieces some of which have never been on display before.

The Room: The May Fair Hotel has 404 deluxe rooms and 13 lavish suites. We were staying in one of the Deluxe Rooms, which has amongst other things, a king-sized bed. Oh the bed, the bed. You can have the deepest bath, the most powerful shower, all the touches but if the bed isn’t right, then the room isn’t right. Luckily, The May Fair Hotel, has aced the bed game with Vi-Spring mattresses and feather pillows, which Goldilocks would have found just right, if the bears had been Green Park residents. Whilst the large mirrors, Sicilian marble and white tiles keep the bathroom minimalistic and sleek; the aubergine green that featured in the room was a little dated, likewise with the clear Perspex table and chairs. But that bed could make up for a multitude of sins and luckily there wasn’t a multitude at all. There was though an excellent walk in wardrobe, double sinks, a deep bath and a shower with strong water pressure.

On the Menu: The hotel restaurant is The May Fair Kitchen, a sleek restaurant with floor to ceiling windows which does give it a slight goldfish bowl feel. It’s all about the sharing plates here, but unlike other places that shan’t be named yet, the portions here are of the size that you can actually share, no plates for two, with three pieces or mouthfuls so small you aren’t sure if the chef sent the plate out half finished. The menu showcases Spanish and Italian small plates alongside signature Peruvian and Mexican dishes from Monmouth Kitchen and Leicester Square Kitchen. Dishes include lobster risotto with cherry tomatoes and seared scallops; seared tuna with caponata; smoked paprika chicken skewers; steamed clams and monkfish with capsicum salsa and avocado and corn salad with blackberry dressing.

What We Ate: There isn’t any order to the dishes here, that being the nature of tapas, but luckily for us most of it arrived at once so we can get a forkful of meaty chorizo and then head straight for the indulgent gnocchi rather than waiting between each dish. The said gnocchi, was plump and dense and coated in rich gorgonzola sauce, there was more gorgonzola butter poured over the 28-day aged rib-eye steak that was perfectly tender. There was a meaty tendril of roasted octopus served with pickled smoked paprika and Padron mayonnaise.  Patatas bravas were rather underwhelming, we were expecting chunks of potato coated in a spicy, tomato sauce; instead we received a plate of chips with dips of garlic and paprika. A salad of orange and avocado might not sound particularly appealing but with cayenne pepper and lemon dressing, it was the perfect balance of tart, sweet and creamy and was a much-needed accompaniment next to all the butter, cheese and meat we had.

For pudding we were tempted by the pistachio and olive oil cake with mango cremoso and white chocolate, but in the end, a we went straight for Old Fashioneds. The ideal finish.

Breakfast was a veritable feast. A station filled with different seeds, fruits, nuts, yoghurts, juices and fish; a table with everything needed for a hefty full English and a bar groaning under the weight of pastries and bread. You could also order dishes off the menu too, make sure you get up with enough time to make the most of the breakfast.

What We Drank: Heading straight on to wine, we went for a carafe of Gavi di Gavi ‘Toledana’ Domini Villa Lanata from Piedmonte. The wine list for those available by the glass or carafe is rather succinct, there’s a much larger selection available by the bottle, including a cellar selection, where I you so wish you can drop £1600 on a bottle of Château Lafite Rothschild, 1er Grand Cru Classé.

Go With:  Someone who appreciates Balenciaga ideally, and/or someone you want to share your room with.

Like This? Try These:  Leicester Square Kitchen, The Ampersand, Monmouth Kitchen

The May Fair Hotel: Stratton Street, Mayfair, W1J 8LT